Riffing on Editorial Direction. Because it’s my blog.

When I first started Breaktap, I wanted to focus my writing on mobile startups. I had amassed an enormous collection of feeds after laying the groundwork for a mobile gaming startup I wanted to launch that I simply didn’t have the resources to pursue, both in domain expertise and in cash. I had feeds from “mobile” sections of the major tech blogs as well as those from independent developers like Marco Arment, Ray Wenderlich and others.

So the most obvious thing to write about at the time was the app ecosystem: stand-alone apps that were using the web to deliver some type of service in place of the traditional web browser. Even up until a few years ago, it was mostly uncharted waters and was at least somewhat equitable in terms of distribution.

But things have changed drastically over the last few years. Fewer and fewer apps are making it and the ones that do make it are, with very rare exception, offerings put out by the already dominant players in the field. Most of the time, these companies have at least one successful app in the marketplace. Sometimes several. The independent app developer has become, by and large, an endangered species. Both the closed ecosystem as well as the relative nonchalance on the part of Apple and Google to invest in new models of app discovery help drive this vicious circle and accompanying feedback loop. The result is a marketplace filled with a tiny number of apps making enormous sums of money and a sea of apps that are downloaded once (if even) and then largely ignored. The indie apps that do explode out of nowhere are almost always games and almost always have a short shelf life after their initial push. (see Flappy Bird)

Basically, I wonder if the stand-alone app landscape has hit a dead end. Startups have always been a zero-sum game, yes. But at this point, it’s almost gotten depressively bad. As in aspiring musicians that try out for American Idol may have a better chance to become the next Katy Perry than an app developer has of building an app that can even produce a livable salary, let alone a fortune.

What might help bring the buzz back to mobile? Context. Namely, mobile apps as an enabler for other connected devices. Chetan Sharma referred to it in one of his most recent papers as “connected intelligence.” It’s been called the “Internet of Things” or “M2M” by some. Whatever nomenclature you decide to use, smart devices are coming. The questions revolve around standards. First, what will be the underlying language linking them together and allowing them to talk to one another. Secondly, from where will all of these new, internet-connected objects be managed? While the former is still yet to be determined, the most likely place from which to control all of these things is going to be the smartphone. Will there be multiple hubs? Different apps for different groups of use cases (e.g. a smart home app that controls lighting, appliances, heating/cooling etc.) The apps are interesting but so are the objects that are going to be enabled with this technology.

To be clear, I’ll absolutely continue writing about new startups that leverage mobile as their primary business model. I’ll continue covering new apps, particularly from those startups who are able to find their way past the traffic jam of the App Store market.

But I’m also thinking I may spend more time on IoT-specific topics: not just potential hub solutions in the forms of apps but the connected objects that are really mobile computing devices in their own right. After all, it remains true to our underlying thesis of a “post-PC” vision. So how about it?

Weekend Roundup 8/18: Android Fragmentation, Mobile Payments & Predictive News Apps

Good morning! Here’s some stuff you might’ve missed over the weekend.

Android Fragmentation? (or nah?)

First up, Entropy’s Eddie Vassallo argues on GigaOM that Android fragmentation is becoming less and less of an issue for developers building apps on the platform. One reason, he says, has to do with Google Play services:

Crucially, version 5.0 of Google Play Services is now being rolled out to all Android devices running OS 2.3 Gingerbread up to 4.4 KitKat. This sinks the argument that developers are handcuffed to older OS features to ensure legacy compliance of core elements of their app.

The often cited screen size fragmentation is another issue that Vassallo argues is not nearly as big an issue as is being made out to be by non-developers. He cites a post from developer Russell Ivanovic which points out that potential layouts are actually quite small:

A designer doesn’t have to “re–lay out” the app design for every possible screen size. Instead, through thoughtful use of higher resolution graphics and accounting for minor variations in width and height, almost every screen size can easily be catered to.

Is now the time (finally) for mobile payments?

Alberto Jimenez, writing for TechCrunch, cites a number of recent, converging trends that may be signaling the impending mainstream adoption of mobile payments. First, data-driven services:

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the way we initiate and accept payments today. However, there are a number of activities that take place before and after the transaction that can deliver tremendous value to the consumer and the merchant, both in terms of relevance and the ability to drive top-line growth, respectively. These activities include innovative, data analytics-driven ways to discover new products and services, save money via price-comparison tools, and deliver immediate gratification using location-based services, just to name a few.

Secondly, the aspect of cards on file, which mobile services (e.g. Uber) have helped facilitate in a way that never existed previously:

With the emergence of app ecosystems that make mobile the lead channel for a multitude of services in categories as diverse as music streaming and share economy services like non-hotel travel accommodations, “cards on file” has emerged as a key enabler of transactions being initiated on the mobile device. This not only makes payments seamless, but also transparent to the consumer.

Lastly, the security question:

Industry surveys continue to rank security concerns high on the list of reasons preventing consumers (and merchants) from adopting mobile payments. Most of us know that some of these concerns are perceptions rather than factual reasons – everything else being equal, mobile transactions are by definition safer than plastic transactions. Industry-wide initiatives, such as tokenization, have the potential to significantly increase the level of security and subsequently the general public perception about payments — specifically the kind initiated on mobile devices.

Mobile News Apps & Predictive Content

Finally, this was a really interesting look at the future of mobile news apps from Monday Note’s Frédéric Filloux:

For a news provider, the smartphone screen is the the most challenging environment ever seen. There, chances are that a legacy media or a pure-player will find itself in direct competition, not only with the usual players in its field, but also with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and scores of gaming applications. Distraction is just one icon away; any weakness in functional or graphic design can be lethal. Hence the questions for publishers: What type of news should they put on their mobile apps, what formats, what about images and video, sharing, curation, connections to other apps?

A potential solution? The ability for the app to surface content to you based on context:

Based on these data sets, it becomes possible to predict your most probable level of attention at certain moments of the day and to take in account network conditions. Therefore, a predictive algorithm can decide what type of news format you’ll be up for at 7:30am when you’re commuting (quickly jumping from one cell tower to another with erratic bandwidth) and switch for faster reads than at 8:00pm, when you’re supposed to be home, or staying in a quiet place equipped with a decent wifi, and receptive to richer formats.

By anticipating your moves, your phone can quickly download heavy media such as video while networks conditions are fine and saving meager bandwidth for essential updates. In addition, the accelerometer and internal gyroscope can tell a lot about reading conditions: standing-up in a crowded subway or waiting for your meeting to start.

That would be fantastic.

Can Facebook Innovate? A Conversation With Mark Zuckerberg (@nytimes)

Lots of interesting stuff here from Zuck, including admitting that the traditional Facebook experience is intentionally being un-bundled:

But I think on mobile, people want different things. Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences. So what we’re doing with Creative Labs is basically unbundling the big blue app.

Nate Westheimer of Picturelife: 7 Ways to Ask for App Store Reviews

Some good, non-intrusive/annoying strategies here, e.g. asking in e-mail communications passively, rather than coming at you in-app. Although I think I like Threes’ strategy the best. Remember, as a developer, you’re asking for a favor. You’re not entitled to a review just because someone downloaded it, just like an author isn’t entitled to a review on Amazon even if their book is a best-seller. Most people don’t know how much of a factor ratings are in the App Store algorithm and even if they did know, they probably wouldn’t care. Being aggravating, however, as Gruber has written about, is a sure-fire way to get people to actually take the time to leave you something negative.

Ultimately, if we collectively pledge to not bow to the lowest common denominator in app store reviews, all of our apps and our customers would be a lot better off.

Preach.

Digital Hub 2.0 (@stratechery)

Ben Thompson:

Imagine a device that initially launches with limited functionality and is dependent on an iPhone (similar to the iPod, or the first iPhone). Perhaps it monitors fitness and health, and slowly, year-by-year, adds additional functionality. More importantly, assume that Moore’s Law continues, batteries make a leap forward, flexible displays improve, etc. Suddenly, instead of a phone that uses surrounding screens, like the iPhone does in the car and the living room, why might not our wrist use a dumb screen in our pocket as well? All of our computing life, on our wrist, ready to project a context-appropriate UI to whichever screen is at hand. Moreover, by being with us, it’s a perfect wallet as well.

I guess the question becomes how small do UIs get before they become too difficult for the user to consume content or perform a specific task? Or will they? From a content perspective, we asked a similar question when the desktop migrated to the small screen: will people continue watching videos, reading articles etc. on a device a fraction of the size of your standard PC monitor? We got our answer. For certain services, the jury’s still out: spreadsheets and word processing haven’t become ubiquitous on mobile as of yet. When you get down to the level of a watch, it becomes an even more sobering perspective. But as Ben mentions, there is plenty of room to run here: we haven’t scratched the surface of the possibilities here re: the digital hub, the Internet of Things, the Universal Remote or however you choose to define it.

Boycott Uber If You Don’t Like It (@gawker)

I put forward this option in order to distinguish it from other, more vague proposals, such as “Throw Uber’s asshole CEO in jail” or “Pass some sort of law against Uber’s pricing scheme.” If you find Uber objectionable, the proper thing to do is to cast your economic vote against Uber by not giving them any money. If you are particularly passionate about this issue, organize a large-scale boycott of Uber. But do not sit around complaining about Uber while also using Uber. That is nonsense.

Sums it up, really. And by the way, I’m still waiting to hear a quote from Travis Kalanick or any other Uber executive that their mission statement is, as some of Uber’s more vocal critics have maintained, to replace taxis in each municipality rather than simply becoming the best alternative to taxis in each municipality. Uber’s true competitors are expensive black car services. They may take a share of the higher end of the cab-riding demographic but unless Uber fares come down precipitously, the average cab rider is going to stick with yellow cabs, which is completely sensible and how I think they intended it to play out.

The MTA Plans to Turn New Yorkers’ Smartphones into Subway Passes (@skift)

The MTA plans to have a next-generation fare payment system in place by 2019, says agency spokesman Aaron Donovan. The plastic and paper MetroCards are expected be replaced with near-field communication or radio frequency technology that allows riders to use key chains, credit cards, or their smartphones to tap rather than slide through subway turnstiles or dip into bus buckets.

Mobile Roundup: The Five Biggest Stories From Day Two at #CES2014

Each day during CES, we’ll recap the five biggest stories and innovations in mobile, wearable and “Post-PC” technology that went on display that day.

1.)  Biz Stone’s Jelly app debuts

c/o Jelly

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his team released Jelly, a new social app built exclusively for mobile that allows users to answer one another’s questions in more or less real-time. Having used it for some time yesterday, I can tell you that it’s beautifully designed and mimics the functionality of several different services, although a more visual, snappier, less moderated (for now?) version of Quora is probably the best way I can describe it in its current incarnation. In the promotional videos though, Biz is looking at through the lens of search, positing that Jelly is what a modern search engine would look like if built from the ground up. I’m not sure about that since human-powered search has been tried in many forms but has never been able to realistically compete with the Googles and Facebooks of the world. But Biz obviously has a track record and certainly has enough financial backing to give him and his team the time to figure out a way to make it work.

2.) Apple releases third beta of iOS 7.1 to developers

c/o MacRumors

This didn’t happen at CES specifically but Apple pushed a third beta of iOS 7.1 to developers yesterday with some aesthetic changes to some of the UI conventions that have become commonplace in iOS even before 7.0 was released. Circular buttons have now replaced the more traditional rectangular buttons when making calls, along with changes to the look of the sliding lock screen, among others. The virtual keyboard also has a slightly bolder, darker look. All in all, there are some changes that I think even most non-tech people will notice but nothing major in terms of change in functionality.

Additional Pictures:

MacRumors
TechCrunch

3.) PulseWallet debuts with palm scanning machine that can facilitate payments

c/o The Verge

Google Wallet, Coin & other startups are trying to make small payments easier through the consolidation of cards in your wallet. But you still have to take out some kind of device, be it a phone or something else, and scan it in order to pay. PulseWallet alleviates that by scanning the veins in your hand using biometric technology. You can pair this information with your credit card in order to pay for anything from any merchant using a PulseWallet scanner. It utilizes Fujitsu’s PalmSecure technology, which is currently being used in fraud protection systems in Italy, Brazil and other countries.

Additional information:

The Verge
Fast Company

4.) MoID: Remember your contacts while remaining focused on your conversation

c/o TechCrunch

In a nod to the continuing trend of hardware & software technology companies focusing on getting that technology out of your way, MOid’s smartphone app is designed to help bring information to your attention about people in close proximity to you so that you don’t have to worry about remembering them later. The obvious utility is for conferences (like CES) where you’re meeting a lot of new people at any given time but forget about them later on if you don’t have an existing relationship or forgot to exchange business cards.

Additional information:

TechCrunch

5.) Yahoo acquires Aviate, startup working on “Intelligent Homescreen”

c/o Aviate

Marissa Mayer announced another Yahoo acquisition, this time a startup called Aviate, which uses the existing apps on your Android phone to produce a personalized experience that aims to make your information more relevant. A few startups have been working in this space and taking a shot at re-imagining the Android home screen experience, most notably Cover.

Additional information:

TechCrunch

Surgeons experimenting with Google Glass to collaborate on surgical procedures (@cbsnews)

Link to VIPAAR, the conferencing software used to allow the surgeon to point to the screen remotely.

These are the kinds of use cases that make Glass fascinating far beyond just what consumers may get out of them in the near term.

Smart Watches and Computers On Your Face (@marcoarment)

I find myself in agreement with a lot of what Marco has to say usually. But this:

But why do we need “smart” watches or face-mounted computers like Google Glass? They have radically different hardware and software needs than smartphones, yet they don’t offer much more utility.

And this:

We already have extremely powerful devices that we’re barely using the potential of — we don’t need to divide our attention and resources further to add new device categories to our lives that aren’t massively better in normal use than what we already have.

I disagree with.

There are two premises being made here:

1. Wearables are (already) a lost cause because the first generation of devices have already been defined by their lack of fashionability and utility

2. They serve as a distraction for consumers, developers and the still-growing mobile ecosystem at large.

I wrote in a previous post of not being overly concerned re: lack of fashionability of wearables. When you look back through history, plenty of nascent technologies looked unbecoming at first. The giant cell phones of the 80’s and the Bluetooth headsets of the early 2000s were geeky too, with plenty of naysayers questioning their utility, particularly at the time they first arrived. That is until Moore’s Law kicked in and over time, they became less obtrusive, leading to more people using them, leading to them eventually becoming more ubiquitous in society.

Now  with regard to utility, I absolutely agree with Marco that the current incarnation of wearables isn’t there yet. Glass in its current form will have to get much better even to get to market in this first incarnation in order to justify what will still be a hefty price tag at launch. And we all saw how the Galaxy Gear was widely panned. But I’m also willing to give it time. Surely if we’re giving smartphones the benefit of the doubt and speak of how they haven’t reached their potential as a category (I agree), why can’t we say the same for wearables instead of writing them off as unnecessary? We’re not even in the first inning in this game yet and some already want to pull the plug. I think it’s short sighted.

Moreover, why is it suddenly a zero-sum game between wearables and smartphones? Glass, for example, already runs Android and the GDK will leverage Android APIs. To what level of scale would companies be dividing resources and become distracted building apps for Glass?

We’re in the very early stages of what I believe to be a 10 year curve for wearables. The first wave of these devices: smart watches like the Gear or face computers like Glass, will function as more or less a smartphone companion. As data around usage patterns informs the construction of new and better devices, I think you’ll see them become more and more independent and have much more prominent use cases, both in consumer settings (pictures, navigation) and in industry. Additionally, because of their proximity, we should finally get to the point where we can rely on voice recognition to complete tasks in a way that we’ve never been able to do at the desktop level or even with services like Siri and Google Now on our smartphones.

Now despite being bullish on these devices as a whole, I’m probably more bearish on the timeline for early majority adoption than some others. As an example, BI thinks 2016 will be the year Glass becomes mainstream. I actually think it’ll be longer than that. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near time to write off wearables as a potential new category in hardware, nor do I see any reason why consumers and technologists can’t focus on exploring the benefits of both in tandem.

3 Lessons from 3 Years on the App Store (@robjama)

Some practical tips on app development from someone who’s been there. Good stuff here, particularly when you think about how many iterations you have to go through to get something fine-tuned enough to warrant publishing to the App Store and avoid a bunch of 1-star ratings that’ll put you in the hole before you’ve even gotten to the starting line. And this attitude is refreshing, particularly in light of all of the “me too” apps being built around the same use cases:

Making an alarm for iOS isn’t as easy as it seems, especially if your goal is to make the best (side note — this should always be your goal when making an app; if it can’t be the best in it’s category then why pursue it?).

You can read more recommendations from the TinyHearts team here.

The Black Car Company That People Love to Hate (@nextcityorg)

Nice long-form read on Uber that steers (mostly) clear of dogma on both sides of the equation when bringing up some of the hot-button issues around push-button-cab rides (e.g. regulation, surge pricing.) and also the “sharing economy” at large.

A big part of the fight in Washington is that regulators are hungry for exactly that data. “Tell Mayor Gray,” Kalanick emailed customers and fans back in May, while the D.C. Taxicab Commission was wrapping up its rulemaking process, “there will be no snooping on Uber’s trip data!” Waters, the commission spokesperson, says that without Uber’s data, “we don’t have any way of monitoring or verifying” the notion that Uber is serving parts of D.C. where it’d been difficult to get a ride in the past.

Obviously, they don’t have to. But so long as its an isolated data-set that isn’t used for any other purpose, it may be beneficial for Uber to give them a peek under the hood, if only to verify the legitimacy of the data.

In 2014, mobile advertising will grow up (@pandodaily)

The predominant format for mobile ads through 2013 has been highly ignorable, small mini-banner ads at the top or bottom of a screen within an app. Mobile advertising 1.0 companies like AdMob, Quattro, Millennial, and Greystripe popularized these formats.

Short-format, punchy video ads that last five to 10 seconds will become the preferred ad units over 150×20 text placements. They’ll benefit from larger screens, too.

All I Want For Christmas: A Beta App Store (@parislemon)

Yes and yes. Scaling a mobile app is made exceedingly difficult when reviews are given near absolutist standing as part of the app store algorithm. If you’re a startup or a one-man-band app developer in particular, you’re knocked out before you can even get off the bench and into the game.

Spotify will hit LG Smart TVs from mid-December (@thenextweb)

But it still hasn’t come out on Google TV. In fact, has anyone heard a thing from Google TV in months? Has it officially bit the dust? The last tweet from their account was January 8th.

edit: there’s this from GigaOM from October that all but signals its demise. But no indication that this re-brand has actually taken place. 

Push Notification Pet Peeves and What To Do About Them

This may seem like heresy since I know most app developers swear by them but I don’t see the utility of many (dare I say most) push notifications. At best, they invoke a kind of passive, “push-off-into-the near-future” kind of response. After getting a push notification like this, that isn’t in your face and shows up once after a long while, I might say “OK, I see the potential in this app I downloaded last week and they want me to come back and give it another shot. No big deal.” However, there are certain apps that bring out the worst kind of response in me (and probably others) when they send out push notifications. And that’s because they fundamentally don’t seem to respect their user. It usually comes about in one of two ways:

1.) The notification is vague, undefined and doesn’t include a direct call-to-action. 

I tweeted an example earlier in the week from Journal, which is a beautifully, well-designed app. And I don’t mean to pick on them exclusively because I could write about a hundred other apps that do this. But I didn’t see the point of this particular notification:

“Time to create a moment?” What does that even mean? If I didn’t see the word “Journal” above it, I’d have said that same notification could’ve been posted by at least 20 apps on my phone. There’s no incentive for me to do anything and it’s not clear even what “creating a moment” even means in that context. Does it mean writing something down? Adding a location? Taking a picture? Journal can do all of those things. So what is this particular notification trying to get me to do? Simply put: it doesn’t make me want to engage with the app. Had there been a more specific call-to-action, particularly if it was associated with something else I might’ve been doing at the time (e.g. you just checked in to to the Empire State Building on Foursquare, want to take picture for your journal?), maybe I’d have been more receptive to it. To me, notifications are almost “sacred ground.” In other words, when I hear the phone vibrate, I’m expecting a call, text, Facebook message, @reply on Twitter or some kind of direct communication. When something comes in that doesn’t fit that designation, it makes me think of spam, junk mail or unsolicited phone calls. Not good, especially when you’re trying to make a first impression.

2.) Continuous blasting

This tends to be more common in games and other congested verticals as companies think they can stand out above the noise by….making more noise. Doesn’t work, at least not for me. (Although to be fair, you wouldn’t think they would keep doing it if it didn’t work for some people.) The most accurate comparison would be to companies, usually of the SaaS variety, that blast their CRM database every week/day/hour with an e-mail when an allotment of time goes by when you’re not engaging with their product. Nothing makes me want to uninstall an app faster. As I write this, I’ve just gotten another push notification from Zynga asking me to play poker. The minute I’m done with this post, it’s getting uninstalled for this sole reason. Not because of the UI or that there aren’t enough people playing or anything else. It’s because they bug me endlessly. And while Zynga’s probably used to this kind of churn over what are company-wide tactics they’ve been doing since Farmville, they ought to take notice of what kind of damage they’re doing to their users.

What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to push notifications and how can app developers make them more engaging and less intrusive?

 

Instagram Direct, Twitter DMs, and the Social/Communications Map (@stratechery)

I sometimes feel that it’s on this point specifically that we geeks fall down in our analysis of social networks in particular. Many of us are so far removed in our interests and lifestyle from the places and people we grew up with that we under-appreciate the value “normals” place on their relationships with those they see in their day-to-day lives. At its core private messaging is communication with people we know, and in that light, the allure is easy to understand.

These dynamics are precisely why I think the typical concept of a location-based social network that matches you up with people nearby hasn’t worked. And I’m not sure if it ever will. Most people want to connect with the people close to them; not randoms. It’s why an app like Highlight has had so many issues gaining traction, despite the money they’ve raised. The only one that’s really worked so far is Tinder. And that’s because even though the founders don’t want to admit it, it has a complete different utility: people on dating sites, apps etc. are looking to connect with new people. That’s what they’re for.

Everything is a Remix: the iPhone (@remixeverything)

Should be required viewing for anyone interested in reforming patent laws, particularly as it relates to software. As I wrap up the Fred Vogelstein book’s chapter on the Apple/Samsung court battles (including testimony), it’s striking how ridiculous all of this is and how much money that could be used to support R&D is instead changing hands between teams of lawyers. And while Steve and co. were (rightly) proud of their work, they seemed to conflate innovation with invention. And not accidentally, either.

Google @Glass: My First Impressions

So after finally being accepted into the Glass fraternity with an e-mail notification a week ago today, I ventured into Manhattan to pick up the unit on a cold Wednesday night from Google’s Chelsea Market office. After a well-designed, informative session with my Glass guide, I felt pretty well-equipped to handle the device, although my eyes were still getting themselves adjusted to it.

As I read from others’ accounts while researching before-hand, if you’re new to the device, it’ll take some getting used to. For me, there was almost a “magic eye” quality in that you have to train your eyes to sort of relax and let the screen manifest itself in front of you, without squinting, etc. even though that may be your natural reaction. One thing I found that helped if my visibility started to wane was to turn my head and look at Glass in another direction. It could be as simple as just getting a different shade of light in your line of vision but it’s a useful hack if you’re having trouble focusing in and seeing the whole screen.

“ok glass, where’s the sailboat?”

As for the experience itself, it’s been humbling at times, awe-inducing at times, but most of all, it brings to light so many conceivable use cases for both the native hardware as well as independent applications. I think Google’s well-aware that any mobile (or more accurately, non-desktop) platform these days is only as good as its underlying software layer: the more quality apps that are built for the device, the greater that device’s utility will be for the user. And Google has two examples right in front of them from opposing ends of the spectrum. Everyone’s aware of the path Android’s taken from humble beginnings to, in only a few short years, overtaking Apple in terms of smartphone market share based on a competitive app store and software that not only mimics Apple’s in quality but takes advantage of the malleability of Android devices to do things that an iPhone can’t (e.g. Swiftkey, Cover) Then on the other end, you have Google TV. A different platform, yes. But also one that’s died on the vine primarily due to a sub-par app experience, both in number and in quality, as I found out recently when I looked to update the apps on my Sony 40′ display and found exactly one app that had been updated in the past six months. So I think Google and any other company getting into wearable hardware is aware of the stakes here and how important it is to build a platform that encourages independent development.

Anyway, here are some quick bullet points based on what I’ve noticed while using the device over the last couple of days. I’ll be expanding on many of these points in greater depth over the coming days and weeks.

-Cards are used to cycle horizontally through your content. This includes e-mails, pictures and videos as well as anything you may have sent to you via applications (Glassware, as its called): tweets, sports scores etc. I’m getting used to what each card looks like but sometimes it’s still not immediately clear. They should probably be marked better with a more obvious indicator, be it a color, an icon or something that’s a little more identifiable.

glass1_o
An example of an e-mail card notification: in this case my girlfriend trolling me with a picture of Rob Ford. Which doesn’t load in-line, as you can see. (another topic for another day)
More intuitive example of a sports score via Thuuz.
Another Islander loss. And a more intuitive example of a sports score via Thuuz.

-The voice recognition software native to Glass is the quickest, most accurate I’ve ever used thanks in no small part to the bone induction audio system. Beats Siri, the Evernote mobile app and any other voice-recognition software on the market, hands-down.

-Browsing the web is an interesting experience for a few reasons. First of all, there are only voice commands and a Google search triggers the same horizontal cards set up, with each SERP listing populated on a separate card. It resembles something like more like an internal search within the app store as opposed to your standard Google search on a mobile phone, for example. However, as with the rest of cards, not all of them are as intuitive as they could be. Many are missing information, truncated before anything meaningful can be read, etc. From there, you can access web pages that are rendered responsively; however, due to yet another form factor, it seems screen adaptation is still lacking. I’ll be doing more research on this in the coming weeks.

-E-mails. as mentioned above, come through as cards, from which you can chose to read more or engage deeper using your standard Gmail functions: reply, archive, etc. You can scan an e-mail of several paragraphs by swiping horizontally across the frame of the device which is no big deal. But because you’re so used to swiping vertically a la smartphones, it’s a little bit strange. Unfortunately, the downward swipe on the frame is already mapped out as an exit menu -> turn off device function. Maybe a work-around would be an upward swipe since that doesn’t appear to be mapped to anything in “card view.” But we’ll see. People may ultimately get used to it.

Much more to come, including a weird conflict the device has with Siri while charging. Is the device ready for prime time? Of course not; especially not at this price point. But it’s getting there. And because the mobile & wearable markets are still in such a state of flux, I think it’ll be some time yet before we declare a winner anyway.